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Protection of Children in Australia

Discuss about the Diversity and Vulnerability in Integrating HSL.

Provisions in relation to protection of children and widely recognized and applied in Australia. The primary purpose of child protection laws is to prevent violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation which a child may be subjected to (Winter, 2011). UN Convention on the Rights of the Child has been formed to give protection to children outside and inside their home (Kennedy et.al., 2016). Australia also has a strong framework in relation to the protection of children. The primary purpose of this paper is to identify the child care and protection legislation in the Northern territories in relation to children in Darwin who experience domestic violence and set out the consideration which the officers should take into account while dealing with the children. The paper also discusses the strength and weaknesses of the legislation while providing protection of children rights of children in Darwin who experience domestic violence.

There can be many forms in which domestic violence may take place and any person can be subjected to its ill effects. Domestic violence has been defined by Kennedy et.al (2016) as an action where a partner or family member causes harm to another family member. It has elements like physical harm, violent or threatening behavior, sexual, verbal or social abuse, emotional and psychological harm, financial exploitation and neglect. According to Katz (2014) children in Darwin are subjected to significant domestic violence which is making them leave their houses and even indulge into criminal activities along with alcohol and drug addiction.

The primary legislation which governs the protection of children in the Northern territory is the Care and Protection of Children Act 2007. The objective of the legislation has been stated through Section 4. According to the provisions of section 4(a) the objective of the Act is to enhance the well being of the children. In doing so the Act purports to provide protection to the children from exploitation and harm and provide maximum opportunities to them so that they can reach their full potential. This means that it is the duty of child protection officer to ensure that children who are subjected to domestic violence in Darwin are provided protection from exploitation and harm and also opportunity to develop their potentials. In relation to doing there are many child protection center such as the one at Dawn which gives shelter to those who have been subjected to domestic violence. The Act also have the objective of providing assistant to the families of the student so that they can achieve the objectives of Act. The primary objective which the Act sets out for those are working with children is that it provides obligation on such people to have regards to the above discussed objectives while carrying out their objectives. In order to achieve the objectives which have been provided through section 4 the legislation provides an overview through the provisions of s 5.

Legislation governing children's wellbeing

In relation to the achievement of its purpose the legislation provides rules for protecting the wellbeing of children by initiating compulsory requirements for reporting about children at risk of exploitation or harm, providing powers to the CEO, the minister and other officers to work for the wellbeing of children and empowering the courts to make orders in relation to ensuing the wellbeing of children. This means that while working with children in Darwin these provisions have to be taken into consideration. The act also provides for rules to prevent exploitation and harm to children and particularly like screening employment for children, restricting employment and preventing child death. The legislation also establishes an information sharing framework in relation to review teams, children and other administrative measures. According to these provision it is my duty to act promptly where any situation of child abuse in Darwin in relation to domestic violence has been informed or reported.

It has been stated through the provisions of section 6 of the Act that the underlying principles of the legislations are provided through section 7-12 of the Act. Further any person who is performing a function or exercising a power under the legislation must uphold these principles as far as practicable. It has been provided through the provisions of section 9 of the Act that all children are to be considered as a valuable member of the society and has the right to be treated in a way that his or her dignity and diversity is respected. Thus while working with children in Darwin who have been subjected to domestic violence and abuse a protection officer have to as far as practicable ensure that the dignity of children is taken into consideration while dealing with them. Children may be from diverse backgrounds and it is the duty of the officer to ensure that they feel valued and respected irrespective of their background.

As a child protection officer working in Darwin it is also a duty under the legislation while making decision from the children to take into consideration   the overall circumstances in which the child is and the decision has to be taken in compliance with ethnic, cultural and religious values which are relevant to the children.  It is also the duty of the officer to ensure that consent in relation to the participation of children is obtained by informing them, their family and those who have a significant part in their life (Ife, 2010). According to the provisions of section 10 of the Act it is the duty of the child protection officer to ensure that they act in the best interest of the children they are working for.  The section precisely states that while taking a decision which is related to children it is the duty of an officer to give utmost concern to the interest of the child. In addition an offer without limiting anything provided in this section has to provide consideration to the requirement of protecting the child from any form of exploitation and harm, the willingness and the capacity of the family members or parents of taking care of the child and the nature of relationship which the child has with the family or any person who are important in the life of the child. The officer while making a decision should also take into consideration the views and wishes of the child along with understanding and maturity, the need for living arrangements, nurturing and stable relationship needs of the child and any emotional, physical, intellectual, spiritual, educational and development needs of the child.  In addition the maturity, age, cultural, religion, sexuality, special characteristics and effect of change in circumstances also has to be considered by the officer while making a decision in relation to a child. Thus if as an officer a person comes across the situation where there the people associated with the child in Darwin are not acting in the best interest a claim can be brought under this section as this is a kind of neglect which is also considered to be a domestic violence. Moreover under this section both the government and the family of the children may be liable as they have been provided with such responsibility under the provisions of section 7 and 8 of the Act.

Duties of a Child Protection Officer


Further a duty is imposed on the officers making a decision for the children to ensure that they provide importance to child participation under section 11 of the Act. When a decision is being made by a child protection officer in relation to a child they must provide adequate information and explanation to them in a way they can understand. The children have to be provided with the opportunity to provide their response to the decision which has been proposed along with the opportunity to express views and wishes freely. Further assistance has to be provided in relation to expressing those views and wishes which are to be considered in relation to the understanding and maturity of the child (Cossar, Brandon & Jordan, 2016).

The child protection officers have to also comply with the principles under section 12 related to aboriginal children. It has been provided through the provisions of section 12 that committees, kingship groups and representative organization of Aboriginal people have a role via self-determination with respect to enhancing the wellbeing of aboriginal children. These bodies have to be provided with the right to indulge in the process of decision making. in addition while taking decision in relation to an aboriginal child the child officers must as far as possible provide the custody of the child to a family member, an aboriginal person in the community of the child, any other aboriginal person or a person who is not aboriginal but is a sensitive person in the opinion of the officer. In addition to the above rules an aboriginal child has to be placed as much as possible close to their family and community.

There are various other guidelines which a child protection officer has to abide by while discharging their duties and carry out their functions including the Education Act, Domestic and Family Violence Act Volatile Substance Abuse Act Education Act and Youth Justice Act (Murdoch, 2013).   When dealing with children an officer has to know what does harm mean. The definition of harm has been stated through the provisions of section 14 of the Act which states that an action or omission which may have a detrimental effect on the emotional, psychological and physical wellbeing,  or development of the child is termed harm.  Emotional, physical and psychological neglect or abuse of a child may be an effect of harm. Harm also includes exploitation of child such as exposing him or her to physical violence. Section 16 defines exploitation of a child as any sexual or other form for exploitation to any child in Darwin. This one of the primary strengths of the legislation is that of the flexibility provided to the meaning of harm and exploitation. The legislation ensures that it provides wide interpretation power to the courts to provide meaning to these terms in different circumstances which may arise in relation to the protection of children. The legislation signifies that any situation in which the child may be subjected to a detriment due to the actions of others can result in harm or exploitation under the meaning of the legislation (Saul, 2013).

Guidelines for the child protection officers


Another significant area in relation to which the legislation operates is that of when should a child be considered for the needs of protection and care. It is provided through the provisions of section 20 of the legislation that the child would be deemed to have require protection and care if the child suffered or may suffer exploitation or harm because of an omission or act by a parent of the child or when the child has been abandoned and no family member is able to or willing to take care of the child, the parents of the child are dead and the child in control of a person who can endanger its safety. It has been argued by Hawkins (2014) that the provisions of s 20 are significantly harsh in relation to the parents of the child. This is because the definition of harm and exploitation provided through the legislation is so wide that any action of the parents which may subject the child to any amount of detriment would make the child eligible for protection and care. This situation may be regarded as a few weaknesses which the legislation possesses. There have been significant protest and fear within the community and particularly the Aboriginal community in relation to the application of such laws. However when a child should be held eligible for protection and care is dependent on the decision of the CEO, officers and ministers and thus their role in relation to the proper implementation of the legislation is significantly important.

Another aspect of the legislation which operates towards providing rights and liabilities to the children includes the provisions of parental responsibility provided through section 22.  The legislation includes within the meaning of parents any person who has the daily care and control of the child. Such person has the authority to exercise rights and powers towards the child and also has all responsibility in relation to the file. Rights of the children have also been provided protection by giving the right to officers of making inquires. It has been provided by the provisions of section 32 of the Act that a right is provided to the CEO in relation to making inquiry for the child where any information which may affect the wellbeing of the child has been received. Any requirement for further action is also in the discretion of the CEO. In the same way powers have been provided to the provision of section 33 of the Act to the police officers. The investigation to be carried out by the police has to be done within 24 hours and the information has to be communicated to the CEO. These provisions provided by the legislation ensure that timely action is taken in relation to any concern to the safety and wellbeing of children. In addition whether protection may be required by the child or not can be found out by the CEO under the power to carry out investigation as provided by s 35 of the Act. However the CEO been provided the obligation to carry out such functions if there are reasonable grounds available. There have been no provisions been provided in relation to determining the meaning of the terms reasonable. Whether the rest is objective or subjective is also not made clear by the legislation. Thus this section of the legislation also signifies that there is increased focus on the CEO’s powers provided by the legislation and whether the legislation would be able to provide proper protection to children or not depends upon the way in which the officers carry out their powers (Ainsworth, 2013).

Definition of harm and exploitation under the Child Protection Legislation


Thus it paper can be concluded by stating that the Act is the most important legislative instrument which has been brought to existence in order to ensure child protection in the Northern Territories and specifically those children who are subjected to domestic violence in Darwin. Any exploitation or harm which the child may be subjected to is covered and dealt with the provisions of the legislation. Any person working with children has to take into consideration the principles provided through the provision of section 9-12 of the Act. These provisions mainly impose a duty to act in the best interest of the children, treating them with respect and ensuring informed participation. The aboriginal children have been provided with additional rights by the legislation.   The legislation provides for significantly beneficial provisions for the protection of children from Harm and exploitation. However it can be stated form the above analysis that the proper functioning of the legislation is dependent upon whether the officers carry out their powers provided under the legislation in good faith or  not. Thus the care and protection of children in the state is highly dependent in the officers, CEO and the minister.

References

Ainsworth, H. 2013. ‘Australian child protection services: a game without end’. International Journal of Social Welfare, 22.

Cossar, J., Brandon, M., & Jordan, P. (2016). ‘You've got to trust her and she's got to trust you’: children's views on participation in the child protection system. Child & Family Social Work, 21(1), 103-112.

Hart, A. 2011. ‘Child safety in Australian family law: responsibilities and challenges for social science experts in domestic violence cases’. Australian Psychologist, 46.

Hawkins, C., Knox, K. 2014. ‘Educating for international social work: human rights leadership’. International Social Work, 57 (3).

https://legislation.nt.gov.au/Search/~/link.aspx?_id=2FE75CBD9A5C4507903A5EA57373EA01&_z=z

Ife, J. (2010) Human Rights from Below, achieving rights through community development, Melbourne Vic: Cambridge University Press.

Kennedy et.al (2016) Chapter 11 Diversity and Vulnerability in Integrating Human Service Law, Ethics and Practice

Kennedy et.al (2016) Chapter 9, Families and Children in Integrating Human Service Law, Ethics and Practice

Murdoch, A. 2013. ‘Is social work a human rights profession?’ Social Work, 56 (3).

NT Care and Protection of Children Act, 2007

Saul, B. 2013. ‘Indefinite security detention and refugee children and families in Australia: international human rights law dimensions’. Australian International Law, 20(1).

Sawrikar, P., Katz, H. 2014. “Recommendations for improving cultural competency when working with ethnic minority families in child protection systems in Australia’.  Child Adolescent Social Work, 31.

Winter, K. 2011. ‘The UNCRC and social workers’ relationships with young children’. Child Abuse Review, 20.

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